Spare a Thought for the Spare Heir


Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding on 19 May 2018 is hot news, so here’s my little contribution to the #royalty craze, a tribute to the spare heir.

It must be a tough gig being the little brother of the heir (of the heir apparent). Prince Harry, bless him, seems unlikely to reign. Heck, who knows if his father, the heir apparent, will make it to the throne.

History is speckled with spare heirs winding their way to the throne. Tempestuous Henry VIII, a spare himself, fathered three children, all of whom had a turn holding the sceptre in the hot seat. More recently, Elizabeth II, a daughter of a spare, could have pursued a life of quiet obscurity if love and duty hadn’t collided so violently in the life of her uncle Edward VIII, the abdicator.

Fascintating Spare Heirs

Late in 2014, I encountered the intriguing concept of spare heir. After pondering the potential for sibling jealousy, the impact on family dynamics, and the effect on one’s sense of identity and purpose, I followed it deep into the rabbit hole of  research and emerged with some cool background conflict for a story.

I wondered if there were ever any twin heirs and spares? Imagine missing out on a kingdom and a crown (or, conversely, relative freedom from duty)  by a matter of minutes! A quick shake of Queen Victoria’s family tree and out fell a golden apple, AKA the propelling nugget of goodness—a historical fact that leads to a series of compelling what-ifs that beg to become a story!

I found heir apparent twins. Almost…

William_IVVictoria wasn’t the daughter of her predecessor. She was the niece of William IV, who’d failed to produce a (legitimate) heir. William and his mistress, actress Dorothea Jordan, produced a herd of children surnamed FitzClarence. But William and Queen Adelaide had a string of bad luck in the progeny department. Their two daughters, Elizabeth and Charlotte, both tragically died shortly after birth. Adelaide’s final pregnancy ended in a devastating stillbirth of twin boys, who, as far as I can tell, were not named.

If those boys had lived, one would have become king, and the other a spare—but a spare by only moments. Meanwhile,  Princess Alexandrina (Victoria) would have remained an obscure princess—a round-raced, royal hanger-on, probably sequestered to a drab apartment at Kensington or worse. No pretty young queen, possibly no marriage to Prince Albert, and no dour, widowed monarch. How would the 19th century have fared without her formidable imprint? How would the 20th century differed?

See what I mean about a series of compelling questions?

History’s Loss, My Gain

I gave those unsung twin boys life and names, and I dug into their family history for a bit of intrigue. I didn’t have to go deep; the boys’ grandfather would have been King George III. Remember him? His illness rendered him unfit to rule and was the reason for the Regency period. He was considered mad (which I must point out is one weakness among many other good and noble qualities he possessed, like being a faithful family man and an ardent promoter of scientific enquiry. He was a fascinating and misunderstood character.)

Augustus (my name), the firstborn twin in my story THE TEMPLE OF LOST TIME, inherits not only the throne but also his grandfather’s illness. Though fairly young, he’s slowly dying and losing his mind. King Augustus’s desperation to extend his reign makes him volatile, cruel, and vulnerable to exploitation. His dangerous obsession with olden magic puts both his life and empire at risk. This is the world of my story: London, 1853, during the dark and unstable Augustan Age. Great Britain teeters as time ticks away.

Meanwhile, King Augustus’s twin, the spare heir Prince James, is healthy, capable, and wildly popular with the masses, a fact that torments the paranoid, enfeebled king.


King Augustus not only inherits a genetic illness, he also adopts his philandering father’s habit of pursuing beautiful actresses. His prime target is the lovely Lucy Le Breton, a popular actress and singer at the Theatre Royal. She does everything she can to avoid the despicable king.

Eleven-year-old Toby, Lucy’s son, is the hero of the story. More than anything, Toby yearns to know his father. What he doesn’t know is the clock is ticking, and there’s no time to lose…

So, a bit of wondering about spare heirs plus a few years of writing and rewriting and rerewriting has resulted in a story, THE TEMPLE OF LOST TIME, a middle grade historical fantasy adventure, which is currently in submission. It is the first of three books. Wish me luck as I try to find a good home for it.

Temple of Lost Time 5_1

To the Real Spare Heir!

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have a rich and colourful royal history behind them and a life full of possibility ahead of them. Here’s wishing them happiness and long life together. May the real spare heir be spared the wild adventures of my imagination! To the royal couple! Cheers!

Image Credits

Prince Harry & Meghan Markle

By Mark Jones CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

William IV, Public Domain

You’ll Never Guess What Happened in November

November 2017 might now be history, but a lot happened, the least of which was acquiring new blogging and marketing techniques, including how to write click-baity blog titles, like “You’ll Never Guess What Happened in November”.

But to clear the air, let me start with what I DIDN’T do in November.

I didn’t memorise November’s poem for #MyEpicPoeticOdyssey. ‘The Author to Her Book’ was both longer than the previous months’ poems and written in Seventeenth Century English. I chose that poem in honour of NaNoWriMo, November’s international novel-writing event.

I didn’t do NaNoWriMo: I did NaNoReWriMo instead. I wrote (unwrote and rewrote) way more than 50,000 words, but I can’t prove it, so I didn’t bother verifying on 30 November. No NaNo badge for me. Bummer.

More importantly though, I didn’t finish my rewrite of The Temple of Lost Time as I’d hoped. I got tangled in a plot snag towards the end so I still have another 20% to go. Wish me luck!

I also didn’t blog here because I was (or rather wasn’t) doing all of the above. (I did blog here though.)

So if I wasn’t blogging here or verifying or finishing or memorising, what did I do?

I retired. Retired!

I know, right?!

After much soul-searching and hand-wringing, I closed the chapter on a 12-year career at a wonderful school. For most of that time, I was a school counsellor, a job that was both rewarding and challenging.

The school allowed me to establish a healthy balance by taking on all kinds of creative asides that utilised my writing skills.

  • I created a comprehensive life skills curriculum for six grades. It addressed the standard social-emotional wellbeing and resilience, but for the higher grades I incorporated real-world skills, things the kids will need when they graduate, like money smarts, relationship wisdom, media savvy, personal safety, and knowledge to battle stigma against mental illness. I wove in skills for clear, logical thinking so students could recognise and refute fallacies and fake news.
  • When the college took on 1:1 learning with iPads, I spearheaded a digital wellbeing education program for secondary students and their parents. To do it, I first had to overcome my own technophobia and ignorance by developing tech skills and embracing the digital life. It was life changing, and I am so glad I did it. I built and started e-Quipped, a digital parenting website and its accompanying Facebook page.
  • I wrote magazine and webzine articles featuring the school’s forward thinking in digital education.
  • I ran a personal development program for fifth and seventh grade girls. It was a huge joy and honour to stomp on society’s negative preconceptions and fears about women’s bodies and instead present them as God-created things of wonder and mystery, beauty and strength.
  • I was an invited author guest in the Junior School’s Book Week festivities and senior English classes when the students were working on short stories. I also got to mentor budding authors in the Challenge-Based Learning program and through my initiative, Inklings, a co-curricular writing group. I cherished all of these writerly opportunities.

In the final 18 months of my employment, I reduced my counselling hours to fill a void in the Marketing & Communications office while the college recruited a new M&C manager. After about 15 weeks, they finally found Agnese, a whiz-woman and all-round wonderful person. The things Ags taught me will be so valuable in my freelance career:

  • Branding – from font to front office
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
  • copywriting – “Think benefits, not features.”
  • managing social media
  • slick email campaigns
  • creating grabby headlines
  • salvaging poor photographs with Photoshop
  • the value of good photography
  • where to find fantastic high-res stock images
  • how to modify images so they look classy (one font only (…maybe two))

When she hired Leonie, graphic designer extraordinaire, to rebrand, I learned about colours, fonts, paper quality and choosing the right style of photograph. Watching a pro work with Photoshop and other Adobe tools is like watching a magic show. I also got to work with teaching colleagues Roz, a talented photographer, and Ming, creator of award-winning videos. I rubbed shoulders with talent and greatness on a daily basis.

I got to work on all kinds of publications: monthly newsletters, email campaigns, website content, heaps of brochures, media releases, a prospectus, and two beautiful yearbooks—my pride and joy. In the midst of writing gazillions of words for the college, I co-created and published two books!

I’m so grateful to be entering my new writing career well equipped. I can thank my school (Leighton, June, Fiona and Paul) and Agnese for giving me both experience and confidence.

Chapter Next

I am thrilled to take on the role of coordinator of the Sunshine Coast sub-branch of SCBWI-Queensland (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). I’m looking forward to serving and collaborating with the kidlit creators in my region. I’ve already met so many talented and vibrant creatives!

December’s work is finishing my rewrite of The Temple of Lost Time with my ASA (Australian Society of Authors) mentor Catherine Bateson. I’ll write about that wonderful experience in January. Again, I’ve learned so much.

Once I put ToLT to bed, I’ll open my notebook of ideas and start to play. I have been stockpiling stories and business ideas for such a time as this. It’s my time to create.

Let’s ride!

Over to You

Do you have any advice for me as I transition to full-time writing? Please leave me a message in the comments!


Image Credits

Photo by michele spinnato on Unsplash, modified by Ali

Photo by FORREST CAVALE on Unsplash

The Arty Hearts Notebook Winner!


Last week’s post about the beautiful designer stationery by The Arty Hearts included a share-n-win opportunity. Readers who shared the post and tagged me were entered to win a luxe notebook.

Displayed above is the beautiful tropical flower range created by designer Katrina Read at The Arty Hearts. The notebook on the bottom featuring lush banana palms and flowers now belongs to …

Jacqui Halpin!


You can check out The Arty Hearts range here. Available in specialty stores around Australia. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook!

Image ©The Arty Hearts, used with permission.

Social Media Make-Over

Spilling Ink has had a facial! A new colour palette, a new header image, and some jazzy fonts. There’s nothing like a make-over to make you feel fresh and pretty.


Art Work Attribution

The new header image is the creation of German artist Mystic Art Design, and amazingly, it is designated Creative Commons CC0, Public Domain! I was thrilled to find such a lovely work that captures the whimsy and wonder of children’s literature. I did contact the artist to find out his or her name, but it seems they prefer anonymity.

I’ve carried the theme across to all my major social media platforms! I’ve taken advantage of the email option that goes with my custom domain, so now instead of Ali (at) hotmail (dot) com, it’s me (at) ali-stegert (dot) com. This branding refresher was in preparation for the CYA Writers’ Conference in Brisbane, where memorable business cards are an asset.

Thumbs Up?

What do you think? Have I managed to convey whimsy and a love of children’s literature?

Crafting Fictional Heroes – Karen Tyrrell’s Secrets


My friend Karen Tyrrell, award-winning children’s resilience author, is back with a brand new Sci-Fi adventure. Karen launches her second illustrated novel in the Super Space Kids series, Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra, an action-packed FUN space adventure for kids 7-12. Illustrated by Trevor Salter.

Jo-Kin Battles the It and Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra (Super Space Kids) are out NOW on Amazon and in book shops across the galaxy including Dymocks.

Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra

Blast off with gadgets, robots and funky food in a hilarious outer space adventure that enlightens you with STEM science, the power of teamwork, problem solving, and resilience.

“Reluctant hero, Jo-Kin never wanted to be a Super Space Kid. Not until Lord Terra kidnaps his Commander’s little sister and starts destroying the galaxy. Jo-Kin reunites the mighty Super Space Kids for an inter-planetary hunt for Lord Terra, finally meeting in a legendary winner-takes-all battle on Planet Deelish-us.

Can Jo-Kin defeat the all-powerful Lord Terra face to face?”

How to Create Powerful Heroes in Fiction

  1. Identify with the Reader: Introduce your hero on page one via his thoughts, dialogue and actions so the reader can relate to him instantly. The reader needs to know the protagonist’s goals and motivations straight away.
  2. Empathise: Allow the reader to empathize and sympathize with the hero, so they really care about him. Your hero could be an underdog with some endearing flaws.
  3. Humour: Let the hero character deliver humour on the very first page, to win the reader over. A character who makes us grin is a character we’ll like.
  4. Action: Heroes are characterised by action. The hero actually does things. He or she doesn’t sit around watching things happen, or waiting for situations to resolve themselves.
  5. Morality: A hero represents the values of the community. They defy evil and save the world. They stick up for the geeks, and believe in fair play. They hate bullies.
  6. Selflessness: We love heroes who go out of their way to protect others.
  7. Loved by Others: Give your hero a sidekick and a team. If your hero is loved by someone else, it establishes the character as someone worthy of love.
  8. Compassion: Your hero character must show an underlying kindness and desire to uplift and help others.
  9. Bravery: Even when scared and nervous, your hero needs to put his life on the line again and again.
  10. Determination: Your hero must never give up, no matter how many brick walls challenges he encounters.

Karen Tyrrell’s hero character Jo-Kin in Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra ticks all those boxes.

Check your hero against the hero checklist. How did your hero go?

Please leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra.

Blog Tour – Around the Galaxy & Back

Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra Blog Tour 23 May – 1 June

To celebrate Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra launch Karen is hosting Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra Blog Tour and Book Giveaway. Co-hosts will share out-of-this-world book reviews, interviews and blog posts.

Karen will zoom away signed copies of her book Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra and galactic prizes via the websites below. Please leave a comment on the websites to WIN.

23 May Amazon & Blog Tour Launch

24 May Writing Kids Humour, Melissa Wray

25 May Create a Powerful Hero Character, Alison Stegert

26 May Creating Teacher Resources, Romi Sharp

27 May Book Review, Robyn Opie Parnell

30 May Book Review, Jill Smith

31 May Creating Themes in Kids Books, Kate Foster

1 June Illustrate a Children’s Novel, June Perkins


Book Giveaway

WIN two signed copies of Jo-Kin vs Lord Terra OR 3 eBooks OR signed artwork from illustrator, Trevor Salter.

For a chance to WIN prizes … Just leave a comment on any of the above websites.

REMEMBER: Leaving comments on more than one site, increases your chances to WIN a prize.

Winners announced on 6 June. Good luck!

Poetry for Children – Magic Fish Dreaming


Magic Fish Dreaming is a children’s picture book project written by my friend and crit-buddy June Perkins and illustrated by Helene Maginsson. Today, I interview the author about her beautiful work and her dream of bringing the project to fruition.

A Dreamy Book for Youngsters

Ali: “A dreamy book for youngsters” is my five-word description of your book. How about you describe Magic Fish Dreaming in five words?

June: Poetry celebrating Far North Queensland.

A: *Sigh.* You had me at ‘poetry.’ What age group is the book aimed at?

J: We are hoping it will appeal to every age group, but it is especially useful to primary school aged children and their teachers or parents to explore poetry together.

34fe6d2f3934cc92dc5b875147a945fb_original (1)

A: I hear thunderous applause from poetry-loving parents and teachers everywhere! Is there another book that you could compare it to?

J: Perhaps Forest Has A Song, which has similar themes, target age group, and choice of illustrative medium (water colour). Although this book differs in that it is very specifically set in Far North Queensland, with very different creatures and trees.

A: Where does the title come from?

J:  The title comes from a long narrative style poem in the book called Magic Fish and the fact that many poems in the book are about the power of dreaming. The title became a combining of those two things.

A: What themes are explored in the book?

J: The poems are about looking at the challenges in and for nature, how imagination can transform natural settings into places of magic, and the power of dreams to change the world and give belonging.

For example, a rainstorm can bring both happiness and sadness. When I was a child, my mother would take me for walks and tell me there were kind spirits watching from the bush. I wanted the book to help children feel they could belong to that place, and connect with people of all backgrounds.


Author June Perkins & Illustrator Helen Magisson

A: The illustrations are quite magical and very appealing. I feel they perfectly create a dreamy quality that supports the title. Tell us about the collaboration between you and illustrator Helene.

J: Helene is a truly wonderful illustrator to work with. She reads the poems, thinks about them, researches the environment I am describing (sometimes from my photographs and videos), and then something magical happens. With ’Hunting for a Poem’ she came up with the idea of a poetry net catching things, which is a lovely visual metaphor for what I was trying to convey in the words. I try to give her as much space as she needs to imagine and dream.

A: How do people, young and old, respond to the work?

J:  Well, this is hard to comment on, as the full book is not yet out. But our two sample page have been widely commented on as being dreamy, musical, beautiful and one in particular, ‘Hunting for a poem’ fun to read aloud and very useful potentially for primary teachers to get across that concept that you can hunt for ideas in your surroundings and then write about them.

There is a variety of poetic styles in the book that we hope people will enjoy. Poetry is such a subjective thing, but this book tries to convey some diversity of style and concept to lead children into many kinds of poetic approaches.

Some of the feedback I have received is, this is going to appeal to adults as well, especially parents, and people who love nature.

From Dream to Reality

A:  Congratulations on your achievement so far. The next step is publication, an exciting and challenging stage! You’ve decided to self-publish and to crowdsource funding to do so. For readers who don’t know about this method of funding, tell us a little about Kickstarter, the platform you’re using.

(N.B. Crowdsourcing refers to a process of collaboration (often via the Internet)—seeking support, information or funding—to bring creative projects to life. An example is Wikipedia, who uses crowdsourcing for content creation among other things. In other words, they outsource content from the crowd.)

J: Kickstarter requires you to aim for a basic level of funding and sets a time frame in which to reach the goal. Backers pledge what they would like to give to your project, and in return they receive the product (e.g., a copy of the book) and other special rewards after the campaign is completed and the products are produced. Supporters are charged only if the basic level of funding is achieved, after the kickstarter is complete.

Creators also set “stretch goals,” which state what they can do if they surpass the basic funding target. The aim is to raise as much as you can to make the project super special.

A: I’ve put links to the Magic Fish Dreaming Kickstarter Page below so readers can back the project. What is the publication schedule?

J: We hope to have the book ready to distribute between October/November.

We are planning workshops for 2017, which can either be selected within the kickstarter page, or by a query to myself and Helene about the costs. This allows schools or festivals to plan for it in their budgets and apply for grants.


Support Magic Fish Dreaming

Your support is needed to bring this worthy and beautiful project to fruition. The Kickstarter campaign’s target must be achieved by 15 March 2016.

Check out the Magic Fish Dreaming Kickstarter page to learn more about the project and the gorgeous rewards for supporters. and don’t forget to click the green Support This Project button. Remember, you won’t be charged unless the target is achieved.

I am a proud supporter, and I hope you will support it, too. Personally, I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands and read it to some children.  Another way to help June is share this post and links to the book’s website on social media. Talk to school librarians, too! Best wishes to June Perkins!

More about the Author & Illustrator

Dr June Perkins, poet

Helene Magisson, artist

Magic Dreaming Website

Blog Award Tour

Blogging M Licht

I was invited by my writer friend, Jeanette O’Hagan, to take part in The Blog Award Tour. We met years ago in a book club, and our children attend the same school. I think our journeys as writers started in earnest at about the same time, so it’s been very encouraging to watch Jenny go from strength to strength.

JennyJuly15bx200Jeanette is an avid fantasy and science-fiction fan.  She has lived in Australia and Africa. She has practiced medicine, taught theology, accumulated a few degrees and is currently  caring for her young children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad Legacy series. She is actively involved in a caring Christian community.

Check out her blog to read about her fantastic books and projects.

Jeanette asked me to answer four questions as a part of the tour.


I’m in submission mode, which is my optimistic reframe of waiting. (Cue cricket sounds). My most recent manuscript, Toby Fitzroy & the Quest for the Scales of Time was launched into the world in early July at a writers’ conference where I pitched to four editors. Happily, all four asked to see the full manuscript. It’s been sent off, and now, well, I wait.

But I’m not twiddling my thumbs, and I’m definitely not checking my inbox every quarter hour. I’m using my writing time to research agents and publishers where Toby might find a home. It astounds me how much time the submission process consumes. I find it hard to accomplish much writing–other than customised query letters and synopses.

Beyond submissions, I am in the pre-writing stage of my next work. One editor at the CYA conference asked about sequels, so I’m doing preliminary research and developing another epic adventure for Toby. India is  a prospective backdrop, and I am so excited at the possibility of including elephants, tigers, and not-so-helpless princesses. 1856 is a fascinating time in Indian history. If you don’t believe me, read MM Kaye’s The Far Pavilions. *Swoon* Check out my research shelf on GoodReads to see my list of books. And if you know of a resource (fiction or non) I should check out, please leave a comment…


I love to weave myth, folklore, and fairy tales into my adventure stories. At the same time, anchoring the story in a historical place is crucial, and getting the details right is very important to me. Hiding sneaky little titbits in words and names is a bit of fun I indulge in. Nobody needs to know but me. *Wiggles fingers fiendishly…*


I remember the exact moment in my childhood when I fell in love with books and reading. I long to recreate that specific experience of wonder and enchantment for a new generation of readers.

I want my readers to be comforted and inspired while falling in love with literature. Always in the back of mind are girls who in certain parts of the world are denied education and freedom and treated like a sub-species. How my heart aches for little girls  who are treated unjustly because they are female. I wish I could offer them some reprieve from misery and fear with stories of beauty, possibility, and promise. Is that too much to ask of literature? Probably. But I’ll keep trying.


I spend months in the pre-writing stage. Throughout this stage, I sample from lots of books and take copious notes. I keep my heart and ears open, because you never know what the universe will offer up. The other day at the library, I checked out a stack of books, but none of them was “spot on.” As I walked toward the door, something caught my eye on the new release shelf. A shiny, new copy of Tears of the Rajas by Ferdinand Mount winked at me. It was perfect. Back to the check-out counter I went.

I research until I stumble upon what I call my Propelling Nugget of Goodness (PNG). This is a deliciously quirky fact that makes my story take off.

With Toby Fitz, my PNG was a fact about Queen Victoria’s uncle, William IV. I’d been wondering what England would have been like in the 19th Century if Vicky hadn’t reigned. She became queen because her uncle didn’t have a legitimate heir. (Mind you, he spawned a tribe to a popular stage actress, but no living heir to Queen Adelaide.) Adelaide had four babies to him, two girls, Charlotte and Elizabeth, who died, and (here’s the PNG) twin boys who were stillborn and unnamed. I named them (Augustus and James) and gave those boys’ lives. I explored the dynamics between the twin who would be king and the other, the “spare heir.” I imagined an England without Victoria. Voila and hey presto! Victorian England became Augustan England. It was so fun! Interestingly, all this royal intrigue withdrew to the background of my story, informing it in lots of ways.

Once the story takes off, I write a long synopsis of the story. I spend some time crafting the climax and end first. I break the story down into a three-part outline in which I imagine as many of the scenes as I can. All the while my characters are taking shape. I begin to create profiles for them, well aware of the fact that I won’t really “know” them until the story gets going. When I’m happy with the outline, I begin writing the first draft. While I write, I keep a working file of questions and problems.

After the first draft is finished, I begin editing. I find some beta readers and get their feedback. I write another draft, which I send to a professional l editor. I keep editing until it’s ready to release.

That’s all for today. Thanks to Jenny for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour!

CC 2.0 Image Credit:

Blogging Fun by Mike Licht